To all my beef-eating Hindu brothers and sisters,
This is a letter I hope you take to heart. I am not going to write about why meat is bad for you or that it is not Hindu to consume it. Instead, I'm writing on behalf of the many cows that saved me and gave me a second life.
As most of you should know, there are dozens of varieties of cows out there. The indigenous "desi" cow has a unique set of physical characteristics that define it, such as its hump and the hanging skin on its neck. These sacred animals have long been revered and deemed as gau mata, the mother cow, by us Hindus since Vedic times. Those who worship Lord Krishna will know that he chose the cow as his confidante. When he came to Earth, he brought a replica of Vrindavan with him and they stood side by side as equals.
Krishna did not stand by a Holstein-Friesian cow. While he advocated for cow protection as a core component of a civilised society, I'm willing to make a compromise.
The reverence he had for the cow came from her nurturing ability as a mother and her capacity to take care of those around her. From cultivating the land and its soil, enriching the crops and of course nourishing millions of us from her milk and its by-products, gau matawas in a league of her own.
For me, my very personal relationship with cows developed as a result of a health battle. My purpose was medicinal relief but what evolved was a friendship and a reciprocal relationship where the cows healed me as I cared for them.
While I can't fathom the consumption of any meat as I feel all animals are sacred, I don't stand between people and their choice of food.
That being said, amid all this talk about cows and beef bans that has consumed political and religious groups in India, I have one simple request.
If I can't stop you from consuming beef, I urge you -- especially Hindus who defer to the idea of gau mata (in theory at least) -- please refrain from eating desi cows. Our country is inundated with Jersey cows who generate much larger quantities of milk. The majority of cow milk consumed in India is now from Jersey cows. They are rampantly increasing in numbers, being made available by many government authorities as we continue to increase the production of dairy. For each of these cows, one day, their milk will dry out. When it does, chop them up. Eat them.
While again I don't endorse the slaughtering of any cows, but since desi cows are becoming endangered and because we share a sacred history with them I think it is imperative to save them. It's a shame that countries like Brazil and Mexico have successfully imported our own desi cows and they are thriving there, generating larger quantities of milk than they do here! We have failed to do justice to the animals most responsible for the increased valuations of our land and increased levels of our crops. Farmers find them a liability, given their assumed lack of commercial value while alive. There are organisations, such as the Bangalore-based Desi Cows For Better India, trying to make positive change and educating farmers about the unique qualities of our cows. They've even offered financial incentives for retaining them. Still, that's one organisation reaching out to some farmers in one state. This needs to happen nationally.
Krishna did not stand by a Holstein-Friesian cow. While he advocated for cow protection as a core component of a civilised society, I'm willing to make a compromise. Let's not ban beef entirely, let's ban beef derived from desi cows.
Just like meat is labelled "organic", "grass-fed" or "imported", all beef should read "Jersey".
While my vegetarian friends often go overboard in their passion, I'm a realist. I'll take this partial victory as the big victory. Given that the desi cow while alive can generate milk, urine and dung -- three essential elements of "panchgavya" which combined with yogurt and ghee create a super drug that has greatly benefitted the land as well as patients like myself -- I urge you to support this special classification for the true "holy cow".
I have not written to friends of other faiths and religions because I don't think it's my place to judge their traditions. With that said, I believe you, my non-vegetarian Hindu friends (the ones who often hide your love for beef or travel overseas to taste that juicy burger), must come out of hiding and mandate to the local authorities and government officials that desi cows are indeed sacred. Just like meat is labelled "organic", "grass-fed" or "imported", all beef should read "Jersey".
Let's not go jump to extremes, but let's at least protect a special class of cows -- the ones that have made this country great, the ones who we share a spiritual, divine connection with, the ones who saved my life and thousands of others suffering from diseases ranging from cancer to skin and respiratory conditions.
The next time you decide to eat beef, please ask your server, your butcher, your mom what cow it came from. Know the answer, make your decision and then please for the sake of our nation's history, culture and patients alike, don't eat gau mata.
With greatest appreciation,
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